Abruption, Placental

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Abruption Placentae: A Comprehensive Guide for Healthcare Professionals

Definition and Overview

Abruption placentae is a life-threatening obstetric complication characterized by the premature separation of the placenta from the uterine wall before the delivery of the fetus. It is a medical emergency and requires prompt diagnosis and management.

Epidemiology and Risk Factors

Abruption placentae affects approximately 1 in 120 pregnancies and is more common in multiparous women, particularly those over the age of 35. Other risk factors include:

  • Hypertension
  • Preeclampsia
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Cocaine use
  • Trauma
  • Amniocentesis
  • Chorionic villus sampling
  • Uterine abnormalities

Clinical Presentation

The clinical presentation of abruption placentae varies depending on the severity. Symptoms may include:

  • Sudden onset of severe abdominal pain
  • Vaginal bleeding (which can range from spotting to heavy hemorrhage)
  • Uterine tenderness and rigidity
  • Decreased fetal movements
  • Fetal distress


Abruption placentae is diagnosed based on the patient’s history, physical examination, and ultrasound findings. Transabdominal or transvaginal ultrasound can reveal:

  • Retroplacental hematoma
  • Placental separation
  • Intra-amniotic blood
  • Fetal distress


Abruption placentae is classified into three grades based on the extent of placental separation:

  • Grade 1: Partial separation (less than 20% of the placenta)
  • Grade 2: Moderate separation (20-50% of the placenta)
  • Grade 3: Complete separation (more than 50% of the placenta)


The management of abruption placentae depends on the severity of the condition, gestational age, and fetal status.

Conservative Management:

  • Expectant management for stable patients with a Grade 1 abruption and a viable fetus
  • Close monitoring of maternal and fetal well-being
  • Induction of labor or cesarean delivery if the fetal condition deteriorates

Active Management:

  • Immediate delivery for patients with Grade 2 or 3 abruption, significant vaginal bleeding, or fetal distress
  • Cesarean delivery is usually preferred in these cases
  • Blood transfusion may be necessary in cases of severe hemorrhage

Postpartum Management:

  • Close monitoring for postpartum bleeding and infection
  • Prophylactic antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent infection
  • Counseling and support for the mother and family


Abruption placentae can lead to serious complications for both the mother and the fetus.

Maternal Complications:

  • Hemorrhage
  • Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC)
  • Acute renal failure
  • Uterine rupture

Fetal Complications:

  • Prematurity
  • Fetal growth restriction
  • Hypoxia
  • Stillbirth


The prognosis for abruption placentae depends on the severity of the condition and the promptness of treatment.

Maternal Prognosis:

  • Maternal mortality is rare but can occur in severe cases
  • Most women fully recover after appropriate management

Fetal Prognosis:

  • Fetal mortality is higher in cases of complete placental separation and severe fetal distress
  • Neonatal complications include prematurity, respiratory distress syndrome, and neurodevelopmental problems


There is no sure way to prevent abruption placentae. However, minimizing risk factors such as hypertension, smoking, and drug use can help reduce the risk.


Abruption placentae is a life-threatening obstetric emergency that requires prompt diagnosis and management. Healthcare professionals should be aware of the risk factors, clinical presentation, and potential complications. Early recognition and appropriate intervention can significantly improve the outcomes for both the mother and the fetus.

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